This was my our (myself and my husband) 5th stay at a Sandals, and 6th overall to the brand(1 Beaches Resort). I must say, had this been my first experience I probably would not be returning to any of their resorts. I literally felt myself defending the brand to so many who complained to us at the resort about their experiences. Specifically anyone with butler suites. Perhaps it was an off week for the resort as a whole, but I will give a few highs and lows here:
Rooms - Average for Sandals. Nothing to write home about, but not bad. The air conditioning was great and the rooms were clean. We stayed for 4 nights and only had our bed made twice, and only once with a special touch (flowers, towel animal, etc.) While that probably wouldn't have phased me normally, the last 3 Sandals we've stayed at made the extra effort every evening.
Food - Dissapointing. There was only one meal that was wonderful, and that was at the Reef Terrace. Kelly's, the "butler room only restaurant" was not very good at all. Several couples who dined there on their first night asked if that was normal for Sandals fair... absolutely not. It was barely on par with a low end chain restaurant. Everything else was not horrible, just not what we're used to at Sandals resorts.
Snorkel Boat - Go over to Negril, ride with Big Poppa and Hollywood and see how things should run. This was almost uncomfortable.
Overall Resort Layout- OK. Butler rooms are seperated by a very busy road and an interesting mini-bus ride from the beach side and many of the restaurants. Unfortunately, since people are using the bus for both beach/pool outings and dinner outings, this led to more than one wet butt in a dress and slacks for dinner evenings. Also, I'm not sure if the drivers are paid by the number of routes that are able to make during a day, but just be prepared to hold on to the handle bars, it's a bit of a wild ride.
Butler Service - We're going to chalk this up to the resort being so big and the fact that there is no quick way from beach to hillside, so the service was OK. Call me petty, but if I'm paying the extra grand or two for extra service, I kind of expect it to be wow service. We don't use it much, maybe 2 calls a day, so we wouldn't consider ourselves high maintenance. And there were strange things this time... we've always had no problem getting something simple like a shrimp cocktail in the afternoon delivered to our room, but here they can only do that if you request it a day in advance. So we adjusted, ordered it two days (a day in advance each) but still only got it once. I'm not sure how much of that was on the butlers and how much of that was on management style, but again, just an observation. What we did hear constantly from other guests was the forever wait on their butlers. Many had rooms higher on the hillside and the walk was a bit far to the main building, so they were told they could call their butlers for a ride, often after being told 5 minutes, they would find themselves 30 minutes later with still no ride.
Soon Come Back - A bright spot for us. Denise helped us book some different resorts for our next trips and we could not have been more thrilled with her. She rocks and I'd suggest you go see her if you want to try another place.
How the Resort was Run- Not Sandals quality, at all. There were so many "lost in translation" things from one staff group to the next.
For example, we are platinum members, so we get special pricing on the wine list. When we ordered the wine, we were told the discount would be taken when we check out. It wasn't, and we had to wait for approval from the F&B director in order to have it done. We eventually ended up getting comp'd the wine becuase of my next point.
The first night there we ironed our clothes for the Soon Come Back Reception dinner. The iron was fine for my husbands pants, but when I took it to my silk dress, it deposited a bunch of crud stains on it. No big deal, just get the resort dry cleaning to fix it, right? Well my dress went out the door as a blue, cream and red dress. When it was returned to me, it was then mauve, light pink and red. Same dress... just completely different. I informed the front desk staff about it saying they might want to look in to the problem and I was told a manager would contact me. On our check out date, no manager had contacted me yet, and instead of bothering to talk to me about it, just comp'd the bottle of wine. That's nice and all, but no where near the value of the dress, and frankly just a little rude that they couldn't even talk to me about it.
Speaking of the Soon Come Back Dinner, we received our nice little invitation cards in our rooms the first night that said the reception and dinner started at 6:30. Great. We show up at 6:30 to find everyone already seated and the show had already begun. Another couple we walked in with had the same issue. Apparently everything started at 6, but our invitations were wrong.
Again, this resort certainly wasn't the worst place I've ever stayed, but it was no where near what Sandals is in other locations. I think the management really needs to spend some time watching the staff at Negril and Emerald Bay to get a clue on where the bar is being set. This is probably a good resort if your staying just in a regular room, but I would never recommend the butler section to anyone... it's just not worth the extra dime here.